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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   4 April 1874

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Ap 4th 74

My dear Professor Dyer

I am sure you will excuse me writing to you, tho’ I fear it will save Hooker1 but little trouble. I shall soon go on with my observations on the movements of leaves when syringed, & I very much want some seeds and a few plants.2 Will you consult Hooker whether he can aid me with respect to the enclosed list.3 The names are all from Linnæus on the Sleep of Plants in the Amœn: Acad:4 & I cannot find out what many of them mean. I have selected plants which go to sleep in different ways & which from various causes I think will be worth observing. I must mention as showing what little use the published list of plants on sale by Messrs Rollinson is, that all the plants mentioned at the close of my list, are in his list, and yet he could not supply me with a single one!!!5

I will ask one other little favour, if you see or remember in the course of the summer any plant of which the stamens or pistil are sensitive to a touch, please to make a note for me, as I should like to try a few others besides Berberis, Helianthemum & Mimulus, by syringing. Is not the column or some part of Stapelia sensitive; but as these plants are probably rare, perhaps you would be so kind as to try dropping water on or syringing the sensitive part?6

Hooker said he wd try to get me another plant of Drosophyllum, has he succeeded?7

All the plants belonging to Kew which I have here are looking excellently, except Acacia Farnesiana, which sometimes looks well & sometimes badly without any apparent cause.8

Pray forgive me for being so troublesome, but I thought it best to give you & Hooker one heavy dose instead of repeating them

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

From what I hear about the actinic rays of the Sun (but I shall soon have precise information) I do not suppose that I shall experimentise on the Kew plants till June or July.—9


CD had previously discussed his experiments syringing the leaves of plants to test their movements in the letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 October 1873 (Correspondence vol. 21).
The list has not been found; however, CD was sent Colutea arborescens (bladder senna), Tamarindus indicus (tamarind tree), six species of Cassia, and ten packets of seeds on 14 April 1874 (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Outwards book, p. 323).
CD refers to Linnaeus 1755 (Somnus plantarum), later republished in Amoenitates academicae (Linnaeus 1749–90, 4: 333–50). Hooker had supplied CD with the reference to the book (Correspondence vol. 21, letter from J. D. Hooker, 30 August 1873).
CD had ordered plants from George Rollisson in 1873 (see Correspondence vol. 21, letters to J. D. Hooker, 18 October [1873] and 3 November [1873]).
Stapelia is a genus of stem succulent plants; most are native to South Africa.
CD had asked to borrow a specimen of Drosophyllum lusitanicum (Portuguese sundew or dewy pine) in 1873 (Correspondence vol. 21, letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 October [1873]).
CD had received Acacia farnesiana from Kew in October 1873 (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Outwards book, p. 296).
Hooker had proposed experimenting on the actinic effects of sunlight on leaves in his letter to CD of 14 August 1873 (Correspondence vol. 21; see also letter to J. D. Hooker, 20 December [1873]).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné). 1749–90. Amoenitates academicae: seu dissertationes variæ physicæ, medicæ, botanicæ antehac seorsim editæ nunc collectæ et auctæ cum tabulis aeneis. 10 vols. Stockholm: Laurentius Salvius.

Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné). 1755. Somnus plantarum. Doctoral dissertation of Peter Petersson Bremer under the supervision of Linnaeus. Uppsala: n.p.


Wants some plants for observation and for experimentation on their powers of movement.

Asks WTT-D to make observations on plants with sensitive stamens or pistil.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Thiselton-Dyer, W. T., Letters from Charles Darwin 1873–81: 5–6)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9387,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22